Contemporary Islam

, Volume 12, Issue 3, pp 287–303 | Cite as

The construction of authority and authenticity in Islamic discourse(s): contrasting and historicizing contemporary narratives from English Sunni narratives

  • L. CochraneEmail author
  • M. Adams


Throughout Islamic history scholars have put forward cases about the ‘right’ way to understand the faith. Focal to these processes is positioning a scholarly narrative as authoritative and authentic. This article contrasts two scholarly narratives of contemporary Sunni Islam as a means to explore how authority and authenticity are constructed. In addition to a critical discourse analysis, the respective positions are contextualized within their respectively claimed classical scholarship. The article identifies the means through which authority and authenticity are justified and it highlights the divisive nature of the discourses, often driven by carefully selected analogies, exaggerations, and the citing of extreme positions as exemplary of the errors of others. The findings have implications for understanding the intolerant, and sometime violent, interactions between Sunni Muslims.


Islam Muslims Discourse analysis Narrative Authority Authenticity 


  1. Al-Ḥarranī Ahmad, Ibn, Taymiyyah (2005). Majmūʿ al-fatāwā, ed. by ʿĀmir al-Jazzār and Anwar al-Bāz, 3rd edn, 37 vols. Alexandria: Dār al-Wafāʾ.Google Scholar
  2. Al-Iskandarī, Muḥammad B. ‘Abd al-Waḥid, Ibn al-Humam (1351 AH), al-Taḥrīr fī uṣūl al-fiqh. Cairo: Maṭbaʿah Muṣṭafā al-Bābī al-Ḥalabī.Google Scholar
  3. Al-Nawawi, Muḥyi al-Din b. Sharaf, (1991). al-Majmūʿ sharḥ al-Muhadhdhab, ed. by MuḥammadNajīb al-Muṭīʿī, 23 vols (Jeddah: Maktabat al-Irshād, n.d.).Google Scholar
  4. Al-Nawawi, Muḥyi al-Din b. Sharaf. (2002). Rawḍat al-tālibīnwaʿumdat al-muftīn, ed. by Zuhayr al-Shāwish, 3rd edn, 12 vols. Beirut: al-Maktab al-Islāmī, 1991.Google Scholar
  5. Al-Shawkani, Muḥammad b. ‘Ali. (2002). al-Fatḥ al-Rabbāni min fatāwā al-imām al-Shawkānī, ed. by Muḥammad Ṣubḥī b. Ḥasan Ḥallāq, 12 vols. Sanaa: Maktabat al-Jīl al-Jadīd.Google Scholar
  6. Altheide, D. L. (2006). Terrorism and the politics of fear. Cultural Studies <=>Critical Methodologies, 6, 415–439.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Al-Tirmidhi, Muḥammad b.‘Isa. (1977). al-Jāmiʿ al-Ṣaḥīḥ (Sunan al-Tirmidhī), ed. by Aḥmad Muḥammad Shākir, 2nd edn, 5 vols. Cairo: Maktabat Muṣṭafā al-Bābī al-Ḥalabī.Google Scholar
  8. Bilefsky, D. & Richter, J. (2014). Muslim leaders denounce police over raids in Czech capital, The New York Times, 29 April 2014 <> [Accessed 16 August 2015].
  9. Brown, J. A. C. (2014). Misquoting Muhammad: The challenge and choices of interpreting the Prophet’s legacy. London: Oneworld Publications.Google Scholar
  10. Brown, J. A. C. (2015). Is Islam easy to understand or not?: Salafis, the democratization of interpretation and the need for the Ulema. Journal of Islamic Studies, 26, 117–144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Calestani, M., Kyriakakis, I., & Tassi, N. (2007). Three narratives of anthropological engagement. Anthropology Matters, 9, 1–12.Google Scholar
  12. Cochrane, L., & Skjerdal, T. (2015). Reading the narratives: Relocation, investment and development in Ethiopia. Forum for Development Studies, 42, 467–487.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cook, M. (2014). Ancient religions, modern politics: The Islamic case in comparative perspective. Princeton: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Cronon, W. (1992). A place for stories: Nature, history, and narrative. The Journal of American History, 1347–1376.Google Scholar
  15. Daily Nation. (2012). Kenya deports Jamaican over terrorism links, 23 February 2012, <> [Accessed 16 August 2015].
  16. Grewal, Z. (2014). Islam is a foreign country: American Muslims and the global crisis of authority. New York: New York University press.Google Scholar
  17. Ḥajar, Al-ʿAsqalānī Ibn, Aḥmad B. Ḥajar. (n.d.) Fatḥ al-Bārī, ed. by ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz b. ʿAbdallāh b. Bāz 13 vols. Beirut: Dār al-Maʿrifah.Google Scholar
  18. Harper, K. (2001) Environment as master narrative: Discourse and identity in environmental conflicts (special issue introduction). Anthropology Department Faculty Publication Series, paper 75, <> [Accessed 24 October 2014].
  19. Herman, E. S., & Chomsky, N. (1988). Manufacturing consent: The political economy of the mass media. New York: Pantheon.Google Scholar
  20. Hovardas, T., & Stamou, G. P. (2006). Structural and narrative reconstruction of representations of “environment,” “nature,” and “ecotourism” Society & Natural Resources. An International Journal, 19, 225–237.Google Scholar
  21. Independent. (2010). Timothy Winter: Britian’s most influential Muslim – And it was all down to a peach. <> [Accessed 16 August 2015].
  22. IOU. (2014). About us, <> [Accessed 16 August 2015].
  23. Kamol, E. (2014). Bilal Philips forced to leave Dhaka, 19 June 2014, <> [Accessed 16 August 2015].
  24. Kupers, W. (2005). Phenomenology of embodied implicit and narrative knowing. Journal of Knowledge Management, 9, 114–133.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lund, K. A. (2006). Making mountains, producing narrative, or: ‘One day some poor sod will write their Ph.D. on this’. Anthropology Matters Journal, 8, 1–12.Google Scholar
  26. Murad, Abdal-Hakim. (2011). The Essence of Islamic Education–Part 2 of 3 [Lecture], <> [Accessed 16 August 2015].
  27. Murad, Abdal-Hakim. (2012). Understanding the Four Madhhabs: Facts About Ijtihad and Taqlid, 1999 [2012 revision], <>[Accessed 16 august 2015].
  28. Murray, D. (2013). Why has Abdul Hakim Murad not been Sacked by Cambridge University? <> [Accessed 16 August 2015].
  29. Muslim 500. (2015). The World's 500 most influential Muslims: Timothy winter, <> [Accessed 16 August 2015].
  30. Paasi, A. (2003). Region and place: Regional identity in question. Progress in Human Geography, 27, 475–485.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Philips, B. (1990). The evolution of Fiqh: Islamic law and the madhhabs. In Riyadh: International Islamic publishing house.Google Scholar
  32. Philips, B. (2010). Salafi Minhaj [lecture], <>[Accessed 16 august 2015].
  33. Philips, B. (2011). Taqleed is a Must for Every Muslim [Lecture], <> [Accessed 16 August 2015].
  34. Philips, B. (2014). About <> [Accessed 16 August 2015].
  35. Taun, Y.-F. (1991). Language and the making of place: A narrative-descriptive approach. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 81, 684–696.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Toolan, M. J. (2001). Narrative: A critical linguistic introduction (2nd ed.). Oxon: Taylor & Francis.Google Scholar
  37. Townsend, M. (2010). Stockholm Bomber’s mosque website carries links to extremist preacher. The Guardian, 19 December 2010, <> [Accessed 16 August 2015].
  38. Tupas, J. (2014). Islamic teacher linked to terror groups arrested, 9 September 2014, <> [Accessed 16 August 2015].
  39. Weber, M. (1958). The three types of legitimate norms and authority, trans. By Hans Gerth. Berkeley Publications in Society and Institutions, 4, 1–11.Google Scholar
  40. World Bank. (2015). Mind, society and behavior. Washington: World Bank Group.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Independent ScholarVancouverCanada
  2. 2.Independent ScholarCape TownSouth Africa

Personalised recommendations